Art, Movies, Lit, Theater

Not So ‘Super’

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Cast’s Heroic Effort
Can’t Save Flick

“Super” is a movie that I was really rooting for, mostly because I like all the people involved; but sadly it just isn’t very good.

Maybe the biggest reason I was pulling for this saga of a sad-sack-turned-masked-vigilante was for the sake of writer/director James Gunn. Gunn is a St. Louis boy, born and bred, whose previous feature “Slither” was a gross-out horror comedy that knew exactly where to insert tongue into cheek.

“Super” has a lot of problems, but maybe its biggest one is its uneven tone as it shifts from observational humor to slapstick to heartwarming melodrama to unrelentingly realistic and brutally violent action and back again. It’s almost like someone crammed a video store into a blender and pressed “puree.”

What makes “Super” even more disappointing is that Gunn was able to assemble a highly skilled cast for what ultimately feels like a movie some high-school kids would shoot in their back yard. Rainn Wilson stars as Frank, a dopey everyman who works as a short-order cook and is married to comely, ex-junkie Sarah (Liv Tyler). Sarah starts taking drugs again and leaves Frank for a drug dealer named Jacques (played by Kevin Bacon, who probably now wishes there were six degrees of separation between him and this movie).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL57ncw2jr8[/youtube]

This causes Frank to snap and he clumsily assumes the persona of The Crimson Bolt by fashioning a homemade suit and running around cracking low-level criminals over the head with a massive pipe wrench. While researching super heroes he befriends comic book store employee Libby, played by Ellen Page who, for the record, is way too attractive to work at a comic book store. Libby uncovers Frank’s alter ego and lobbies to become his sidekick with the moniker ‘Boltie.’

Libby as a character is kind of all over the place. At some points she seems to be earnest and rational and then at other times she is borderline psychotic. Talk about personality whiplash.

What dogs “Super” from beginning to end is that it is a pale imitation of another movie. The concept of a normal dude assuming the persona of a superhero with sometimes funny and sometimes shockingly violent results was done much, much better only a year ago in “Kick-Ass.” There’s nothing worse than showing up late to the party wearing the exact same outfit as the hot girl in the middle of the dance floor.

Gunn cut his fimmaking teeth at Troma Studios, a production company known for making highly self-aware B-movies like “The Toxic Avenger” and “The Class of Nuke ‘Em High.” There is no question that there is a Troma vibe to “Super,” especially as the blood begins to splatter at the end of the movie, but it takes itself a little too seriously to fully devolve into campy fun.

If there is one thing you can say about the cast to their credit, they are fully committed as nobody phones in a performance; but I kept sitting there waiting for the movie to click and waiting and waiting and waiting.

Gunn’s efforts both writing and directing wind up feeling a little amateurish, which I hope was intentional, especially when you consider that “Slither,” while gory and goofy, still felt slick and polished. Let’s just write off “Super” as an unfortunate bump in a lot of talented careers and just forget it ever happened. Trust me, it’s for the best.

“Super” is unrated and features graphic violence, language, sexual situations and drug use.

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